Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, criticized the Obama administration for not speaking out more forcefully to expose Russian hacking during the 2016 election, but also thinks President Donald Trump is in no position to blame Obama for failing to stop it.
Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Schiff addressed a report in The Washington Post detailing the way the Obama administration was slow and hesitant to publicly accuse Russia of interfering in the election even after it received intelligence that President Valdimir Putin was involved.
“I think the administration needed to call out Russia earlier, and needed to act to deter and punish Russia earlier and I think that was a very serious mistake,” he said. Schiff, who said he urged the Obama administration to make a more forceful case against Russia, also believes politics were too much of a factor in the Obama administration’s thinking leading up to the election. The administration, he said, didn’t want to be seen tipping the scales for Clinton or supporting Trump’s claim the election would be “rigged.”
“But both of those factors did not outweigh, in my view ― and I argued this at the time ― did not outweigh the public’s need to know. The American people needed to know,” he said. “And I didn’t think it was enough to tell them after the election.”
The idea the Obama administration didn’t do enough to prevent the hacking is one Trump has adopted recently, after casting doubt on Russia’s role in the hacking for months despite an overwhelming consensus among intelligence officials that Russian hackers were behind the attacks and acting at Putin’s direction.
Schiff said such a stand from the current president is absurd.
“For Donald Trump, who openly egged on the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails and celebrated every release of these stolen documents to criticize Obama, now it’s a bit like somebody knowingly receiving stolen property blaming the police for not stopping the theft,” he said. “Donald Trump is in no position to complain here.”